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How long will San Diego State dominate the Mountain West Conference?

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The season of previewing is not upon us just yet, but the season of reviewing the state of each conference most certainly is. We continue with the Mountain West, where San Diego State remains king.

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

We have officially reached that awkward point in the college hoops offseason where the dust has mostly settled from all the transfer/coaching carousel madness, but it's still far too early to start any serious previewing of the 2015-16 campaign.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, it's time to begin our series of brief rundowns of what each conference looks like after all the moving and shaking that has happened since Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. We started things off with a look at the West Coast Conference, and continue now with the Mountain West.


1. Can anyone pass San Diego State?

Steve Fisher has transformed San Diego State from a program with zero NCAA Tournament wins into the West Coast Xavier: a model of consistency for all teams that fall under that gray umbrella between power five conference and mid-major to aspire to.

Despite losing Josh Davis and 2014 MWC Player of the Year Xavier Thames, Fisher led San Diego State for a sixth straight season, and the Aztecs won at least one game in the big dance for the third straight time. The run of postseason success for SDSU has coincided with a run where they've won at least a share of the Mountain West's regular season championship in every year but one since 2011.

The surprising Boise State Broncos caught San Diego State last season, finishing with an identical 14-4 mark in league play, but just as had been the case in the previous four seasons, no one could pass the Aztecs. Until proven otherwise, the Mountain West belongs to SDSU.

2. Need for strength at the bottom

Two years after more than half of the conference crashed the NCAA Tournament, the Mountain West was poised to send just two teams to the big dance for a second straight year before Wyoming bumped that number to three by winning the league tournament.

The majority of the blame for the drop-off since 2013 has been shouldered by the bottom half of the conference, which was so underwhelming this past season that other teams lacking stellar non-conference schedules needed to be nearly perfect in league play. The result was a 27-7 Colorado State team which won 13 games in MWC play not getting selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Five Mountain West teams finished the regular season with overall records of .500 or worse. The league's bottom three teams -- San Jose State, Air Force and Nevada -- combined for 67 losses. A Fresno State team that went 5-9 in non-conference play, then finished its league schedule with a highly respectable 10-8 mark, didn't help with public perception either.

No one expects each member of the bottom half of the Mountain West to notch multiple top-25 wins before New Year's Day, but if the league wants to send more than a couple of teams to the tourney in 2016, squads like Utah State, New Mexico and UNLV will have to be much better in November and December.

3. Tim Duryea takes over at Utah State

The man who will replace Stew Morrill is the same one who sat next to him on the bench for the last 14 seasons of his 17-year tenure as the Aggies head coach. Tim Duryea was announced as Morrill's successor in late March, news which probably had at least something to do with the fact that Utah State will return all five starters from a squad that was a surprising contender (18-13, 11-7) in the Mountain West last season.

Before getting the head coaching gig, Duryea had already made a name for himself by becoming the longest-tenured assistant in the history of Aggie hoops. At his introductory press conference, Duryea said that one of the changes he hoped to make was to get Utah State "to be aggressive in getting into some national situations." He landed his first big-time national situation when he scheduled a Nov. 29 game against reigning national champion Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.


Boise State

Lonnie Jackson (Boston College)

James Reid (Arkansas Little-Rock)

San Diego State

Max Hoetzel (Indiana)

Fresno State

Jaron Hopkins (Colorado)


Ike Nwamu (Mercer)


Jordan Caroline (Southern Illinois)

Shawn Smith (Marshall)


San Diego State

Kevin Zabo

Colorado State

Carlton Hurst


Tyrell Williams

Utah State

Bilal Begic

JoJo McGlaston

Fresno State

Braeden Anderon (Seton Hall)

Emmanuel Owootoah (Lynn)

Darnell Taylor


Dantley Walker (Chaminade)

New Mexico

Arthur Edwards

Jordan Goodman

Air Force

Matt Mooney (South Dakota)


Stelios Papafloratos

San Jose State

Rashad Muhammad

Darryl Gaynor II (College of Southern Idaho)


1. San Diego State - Winston Shepard and Malik Pope both spurning the NBA makes the Aztecs once again a likely preseason top 25 team and the clear team to beat in the Mountain West.

2. Utah State - I'm all in on the Aggies being this year's Boise State in the MWC. They're loaded with shooters and experience, and should be able to take advantage of a league that isn't overflowing with post talent.

3. Boise State - Of course the Broncos themselves don't plan on slipping too far. Boise loses the 2015 Mountain West Player of the Year, but they return arguably the preseason front-runner for the 2016 award in Anthony Drmic, who was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after an ankle injury kept him out of all but seven games in 2014-15.

4. UNLV - It's now or never for Dave Rice.

5. New Mexico - The conference isn't as enticing when a traditional power like New Mexico is down as much as they were a season ago, but expect the Lobos to be improved in 2015-16, even with the departures of Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney.

6. Fresno State - The Bulldogs were the biggest overachievers in conference play last season, and they return virtually every major contributor from that squad.

7. Colorado State - Being just the fourth team ever to be left out of the NCAA Tournament with an RPI better than 30 stings even more given the graduations of three starters, including leading scorer J.J. Avila and leading rebounder Daniel Bejarano.

8. Wyoming - The reigning tournament champs lose star Larry Nance Jr. as well as three other starters.

9. Nevada - A.J. West averaged a double-double last season and has a chance to be the league's best big man as a senior.

10. Air Force - Falcons have finished the season with a winning record just once since 2007-08.

11. San Jose State - Losing your best player (Rashad Muhammad) to a transfer isn't the best way to improve upon a 2-28 season.